Leader answers more questions

Julie Dore
Julie Dore
Have your say

We asked you to send us your questions to put to Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore. Here is the second instalment of our special Q&A.

Q: Graham Cheadle –

“What is the true amount of debt that the Labour council owes for its blundering schemes?”

A: Coun Dore –

“When we are talking about the tower blocks that were built we are going back a long time, as far as I am aware there is no debt outstanding regarding all those. We are aware of what people like to still call the World Student Games debt but it’s not true what’s depicted, that the debt outstanding is just due to some sort of athletics games programme over a couple of decades ago.

“In actual fact that debt has been remortgaged over time and all the facilities that have been built subsequently have been added to that debt.

“All core cities and most councils do have debt, debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is money that you need to borrow to improve circumstances and facilities in our city and we borrow it to invest in our city.

“I don’t know exactly what that figure is on the debt but our assets far exceed our liabilities by over £600 million.”

Q: Michael Buckingham –

“When are you going to actually do something, other than talk, about our ever crumbling, ever depressing, virtually derelict city centre? Have you ever been to Leeds, Nottingham or Chesterfield to see how they are all prospering around us?”

A: Coun Dore –

“I certainly have been to Leeds, Nottingham and Chesterfield but particularly the first two because I am a member of the core cities group where city leaders get together each month and hold meetings in other cities.

“We do share, we don’t compete with each other, we know the only way we can compete with London and the south is by working together with our great northern cities and regions.

“When I walk around Sheffield, I don’t see it as a crumbling city centre. I’ve been round other cities and looked at their public realm and I believe Sheffield has got some of the best in the country with the Winter Garden, the Peace Gardens etc.

“We’ve also developed pocket parks around the city, The Moor is developing, we’re also developing a cinema and restaurants down there, the new retail quarter will be starting next year. We have had a recession that’s lasted for around eight years now and I think every single city in the country has seen the impact. But now we can see things moving and I think Sheffield is a great city and will continue to be so.”

Q: Michael Buckingham –

“What have you and your cabinet actually done for Sheffield in your time in office? Are you proud of what you have achieved?”

A: Coun Dore –

“We have been in office now for three years, I’m sure Michael knows one of the main issues we have been having to deal with has been public service cuts, particularly the draconian cuts to local Government.

“Even though we have demolished Don Valley and closed facilities we are still building and developing two brand new leisure facilities, we have set up a Keep Sheffield working fund, introduced the Sheffield apprenticeship scheme which is the only scheme of its kind and has been so successful we have 300 young people that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to find work.

“I have personally negotiated the city deal with the Government, where we have taken over control of infrastructure spending, we have concentrated on redesigning our services and transforming our public services – I could go on.

“Of course I can’t say I’m proud of making cuts, nobody wants to make cuts, nobody in public service comes into power to cut or reduce services. However we are where we are and with the funding we have available I am proud of how we’ve used that and distributed that funding to make sure we spend it on the priorities the people of Sheffield have identified.”

Q: Sophie Ball –

“Why was Hammerson and Sevenstone allowed to drag on for so long?”

A: Coun Dore –

“When the Hammerson deal was agreed it was back in mid 2005-2006 and as I have said these developments take time and there are a lot of factors to be taken into consideration.

“Then we were hit with the global financial crisis in 2007-2008 and there was a massive recession and then the 
developer was reluctant to invest until they were confident the economy would start 
picking up.

“Unfortunately that was stalled, we had a new Government by 2010 who said by the end of Parliament they would have reduced the deficit. We are nearly at the end of the Parliament and it’s only been reduced so far by half and in actual fact I think they have delayed the growth in our economy and this recession has lasted longer than was necessary. We can’t force Hammerson to develop, we need private investment and they needed to be assured that the economy would pick up. Unfortunately, since this Government came to power obviously they weren’t reassured.”

Q: Peter Flynn –

“Why did you sell Sheffield airport for a measly £1 when its clear it could have thrived given time and support?”

A: Coun Dore –

“I certainly didn’t sell Sheffield Airport for a measly pound and I think this has been well discussed over the last several years regarding the need to abort that service because it wasn’t financially viable.

“It was a private sector enterprise, it was an operator that decided it could no longer operate an airport from Sheffield because it wasn’t financially viable. The council aren’t in business for running airports or running airlines so, to be perfectly honest, this was where the private sector took a decision in a business that they felt was no longer viable.”

Q: Rob Hadfield –

“Why are you so negative towards new businesses wanting to come to the area?”

A: Coun Dore –

“I know we are not negative to new businesses wanting to come to the area.

“I’ve mentioned the decision regarding Next, now that has been resolved, Ikea has been resolved, we’ve always said we wanted Ikea and now we have the right deal and solution for the people and businesses of Sheffield.

“In fact not that long ago I addressed a new venture that wanted to relocate from London and explained why Sheffield was a great place to invest.

“We were in competition with two other major cities and we only found out a few weeks ago that that business has chosen Sheffield. We invest in the MADE festival, Global Manufacturing Festival – we are definitely supportive of business and we are open for business.”

Q: Matthew Orme –

“Why did the council not offer Don Valley to private companies?”

A: Coun Dore –

“We did look at how we can find further efficiency savings to reduce the subsidy but there was no financial model where it would stack up. No private sector organisation could come in and run a stadium of that size without public subsidy. No private company will come in and invest 
their money unless they are making a profit. The pure fact you’re putting subsidy in shows there is no profit to be made.”

Q: Ann Benn –

“My mum lives in Fir Vale and completed a survey asking questions about Page Hall. We’ve not heard a thing since and private landlords continue to cram people into properties like sardines. Any chance of an update?”

A: Coun Dore –

“This decision to put in a private landlord registered licensing scheme has been taken only very recently. Funnily enough we had quite a lot of opposition from private landlords on this scheme because they do have to contribute to it.

“And because it was introduced only quite recently you probably won’t see the effect instantaneously.

“But be reassured that scheme makes sure that, when the landlords are licensed, they will get a visit.

We will make sure they adhere to that licence which means they can’t overcrowd, there’s permitted numbers for each size of property they have to adhere to, the condition of the properties will be inspected to make sure they are not cramming people in undesirable, indecent homes.

“It will take time because those inspections have to start but I am positive you will see a difference over the next several months.”